Crystal Council on board with final approval for Canadian Pacific Railroad quiet zone

Bid advertisement to follow for plans that include changes to West Broadway intersection

By LACI GAGLIANO
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The Crystal City Council approved the final plans and specifications, during an Aug. 15 meeting, for a long-awaited railroad quiet zone near 51st Place and Douglas Drive, enabling planning officials to place bid advertisements for the project. Construction is slated to begin by Oct. 2.

The quiet zone, which requires trains to silence their horns when passing through the designated zone, entails a reworking of several intersections for both drivers and pedestrians in order to maintain safety and awareness of oncoming trains. The most major changes to the surrounding roadways include prohibiting left turns from eastbound 51st Place north onto West Broadway Avenue and a closure and road removal of part of 51st Place extending west from Douglas Drive toward Edgewood Avenue, creating a dead-end roadway.

John Sutter, community development director, who presented the detailed plans and specifications to the council at the meeting, said the Federal Railroad Administration approved the quiet zone application Aug. 10. The application for a quiet zone had been submitted in January, but the council had begun discussing the proposal with the county in spring 2016, backed by area residents who considered the trains a nuisance.

“We want to move ahead as quickly as possible with the bidding process because our goal has always been to have the quiet zone improvements constructed by the fall,” Sutter said.

The construction is anticipated to be complete by Nov. 13, with the quiet zone going into effect officially by Nov. 29. Sutter said the construction is being granted a five-week time frame in hopes of relieving potential bidders of deadline pressures, since the project shouldn’t take the full five weeks.

“I doubt it will take that long unless the weather gets really bad, gets really rainy,” Sutter told the council.

The southbound-only turn onto West Broadway will be partly enforced by what is called a “porkchop” median, an oblong-shaped median which prevents northbound left turns and splices traffic flow on West Broadway. There will be three of the porkchop medians in succession near the intersection.

Sutter said the addition of the medians wasn’t originally anticipated when planning the quiet zone began. He said the city had to incorporate its construction at the behest of railroad, county and federal authorities.

The medians will necessitate temporary lane closures on Douglas Drive and West Broadway, since the road’s pavement will be cut to place the medians. Additionally, a temporary complete closure of 51st Place will take place for no more than 14 days, as detailed in the plans and specifications.

Sutter said resident feedback has been largely positive and supportive of the quiet zone’s implementation despite the traffic inconveniences.

“The vast majority who have commented, not only do they like the idea of a train horn quiet zone, but many of them have specifically commented that they understand the traffic changes—so it isn’t like they aren’t aware of it—and they still think it’s worth it,” he said.

Sutter said the one exception has been the owner of an apartment complex near an affected intersection. Drivers coming from the surrounding neighborhood who had been accustomed to cutting through on 51st Place will be required to backtrack short distances on streets like Corvallis, 50th, and Fairview avenues to get to Douglas, or use Douglas to travel north on West Broadway.

“(It’s) a very small change to make the quiet zone work,” Sutter added.

The project is estimated to cost a little over $213,000, which will be paid from the city’s EDA fund balance. The price of the project has increased a small amount since the last estimate because planners opted to include the addition of truncated dome platforms to the pedestrian ramps before and after each crossing.

“That’s a worthwhile improvement. It’s an improvement that the city would need to do anyway, so we figured we’d do it while we’re working in the area already,” Sutter explained.

Additional measures to deal with road closures will include coordinating with public safety officials like police, fire, and ambulance so crews can take alternate routes during the closure period.

Neighboring residents’ support for the project might be reflected in Mayor Jim Adams’ relief after the council approved the plans and specifications.

“That is a nice one to be done,” he said.